Speech Pathologist

A speech pathologist, also known as a speech-language pathologist or speech therapist, is a healthcare professional who specializes in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating individuals with communication and swallowing disorders.

Their primary role is to assess and improve speech, language, and cognitive-communication skills in people of all ages, from infants to older adults. Here's a detailed job description of a speech pathologist:

  1. Evaluation and Assessment:

    • Conduct comprehensive evaluations to determine the nature and extent of speech and language disorders.
    • Administer standardized tests and utilize various assessment tools to measure speech, language, and swallowing abilities.
    • Observe and analyze communication skills, including articulation, fluency, voice, language comprehension, and expression.
    • Assess cognitive-communication skills such as problem-solving, memory, attention, and executive functioning.
  2. Diagnosis and Treatment Planning:

    • Interpret assessment results to formulate accurate diagnoses and develop individualized treatment plans.
    • Collaborate with other professionals, such as physicians, psychologists, educators, and occupational therapists, to gather relevant information and provide holistic care.
    • Set appropriate goals and objectives for therapy based on the individual's needs, abilities, and developmental stage.
  3. Therapy and Intervention:

    • Provide direct therapy services to clients, utilizing evidence-based techniques and strategies to address speech and language disorders.
    • Teach individuals to improve their communication skills through exercises, drills, and therapeutic activities.
    • Work on specific areas, such as articulation, phonology, voice production, fluency, language comprehension, vocabulary development, grammar, pragmatics, and social communication.
    • Incorporate augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices or strategies for individuals with severe communication impairments.
  4. Swallowing and Feeding Intervention:

    • Assess and treat individuals with swallowing disorders (dysphagia) to ensure safe and efficient eating and drinking.
    • Use specialized techniques and modifications to improve swallowing function and reduce the risk of aspiration or choking.
    • Provide guidance on appropriate food textures, feeding techniques, and positioning during meals.
  5. Collaboration and Counseling:

    • Collaborate with families, caregivers, and other professionals to provide support, education, and strategies to enhance communication skills in everyday environments.
    • Offer counseling and emotional support to individuals and their families, addressing concerns related to communication disorders.
    • Educate clients, families, and the community about communication disorders, prevention strategies, and available resources.
  6. Documentation and Progress Monitoring:

    • Maintain accurate and up-to-date records of evaluations, treatment plans, progress notes, and reports.
    • Regularly assess and document clients' progress towards their goals, modifying therapy plans as needed.
    • Provide written reports and communicate evaluation results, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations to clients, families, and other professionals.
  7. Professional Development:

    • Stay updated with current research, advancements, and best practices in the field of speech-language pathology.
    • Participate in continuing education activities, workshops, conferences, and professional organizations to enhance clinical skills and knowledge.
    • Adhere to ethical guidelines and standards set by professional associations, such as the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) or relevant regional organizations.

It's important to note that the specific responsibilities and areas of focus may vary depending on the work setting and population served, such as working in schools, hospitals, clinics, research institutions, or private practice. Speech pathologists often work as part of a multidisciplinary team to provide comprehensive care to individuals with communication and swallowing disorders.

Personal Requirements

  • desire to help others
  • able to get along well with others
  • warmth, caring and empathy for people
  • tactful and able to communicate well
  • emotionally stable and mature
  • patient and sensitive to the needs of others
  • ability to remain objective
  • responsible and leadership ability
  • able to work independently
  • willingness to do research and to contribute new information

How to Enter

School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course  

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements. 

Compulsory Subjects: None 
Recommended Subjects: Mathematics, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences.

What to Study

Degree: BA or BSc with suitable subjects such as Audiology or Speech and Hearing Therapy- Wits, UCT, UP, UL, UKZN, SUN.

Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to accredited qualifications and registration requirements. This information can be found in the relevant sections under the Professional Board for Speech Language and Hearing Professions.


  • Department of Education 
  • University speech and hearing clinics 
  • Special schools 
  • Audiology departments in hospitals and clinics 
  • Medical practitioners 
  • Industries 
  • Defence force 
  • Universities 
  • Self-employment, with private practice.

Further Information

South African Speech, Language and Hearing Association
P O Box 10813
Linton Grange, 6015
Tel: 0861 113 297

The Head of the Department
Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology
University of Pretoria, 0002
Tel: (012) 420-2357

Getting Started

  • read up about speech, hearing and language problems
  • arrange to speak to a speech therapist about this type of career.

Programmes by Study Institutions


Related Occupations

Study to become a speech pathologist at Wits

Study to become a Speech, Language and Hearing Therapist at Stellenbosch University

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